Building a Cross-Country Schooling Course at Home

By: Eric Bull

If you have the space for it, a schooling course at home can be a great asset to your training program. After deciding that you have enough room, the challenge is that you need multiple fences to really get the job done. Usually the best solution is to install a few permanent features and then add some portables so that you can mix things up to ask different questions in your training.

pic1A simple ditch, a simple water crossing, and a few small portables of different sizes – BN through Training or Prelim, are a good start.You need fences of different shape, too(see photos): a table, a rolltop, an oxer, something with a cutout underneath it (which often catch young horses out on course).

Keep in mind that while portable jumps are just that – portables – dragging them around every time you want to ask a new question, in reality, is inconvenient. Well-built fences that are lightweight enough that you don’t need superhuman strength (or a tractor) to move them every time you want to change something is important when you consider what types of portables you want.
We’ve found that a lot of people who are trying to get young horses going confidently are starting to see corners, skinnies, wedges and brush at Prelim and even at Training level. All of those types of questions can be introduced in a small, easy fashion.

pic2While it can seem somewhat daunting to buy all the jumps it might take to get a horse through the levels, when you break it down to its simplest form it doesn’t take as much as you might think. The whole thing is actually quite simple when you do it properly: the progression of the levels really makes sense, and there are simple ways to look at how to prepare your horse to move up through the levels, one question at a time.

Another way to break it apart is to break the course into its simpler components. A cross-country course consists of galloping fences and combinations; as the levels go up, the number of combinations increases and the complexity of the questions increases. In your schooling you can build all these combinations simply, building your horse’s confidence in the process.
For instance you can build a ditch, then create a ditch and rails, a “coffin”, and whatever else you can thing of that involves a ditch, using a combination of portable cross-country jumps and standards and rails. With a little imagination, you can school multiple questions effectively. And of course when there are no constraints on space AND budget, the only limit is your imagination.

Photos copyright Scott Nathan